I enjoy traveling. I think it’s important, as citizens of this planet, to see the way people live at other longitudes so that we can better understand the way we live. How can we expect to make informed decisions about foreign policy if we’ve never left our own United States comfort zone? Travel is also a right, guaranteed to all free people throughout the world. Of course, none of the above reasons have stopped the government from trying to take the right to travel away from us.

Beginning Jan. 14, 2007, any person trying to leave or enter the United States will have to obtain clearance from the Department of Homeland Security. This applies to everybody: natural-born citizens, naturalized citizens, green card holders, and anybody whose student visa has run out and wants to return home. Airlines, cruise ships, and even fishing boats will have to register their passenger manifests with the DHS, and have each member cleared. If any passenger receives anything but a “Yes” from the DHS, they will not be allowed to board. If the DHS decides not to respond, permission to board is denied. Worse yet, there are no criteria listed in the “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” (the official notification of the new rules) for making such a decision. Our decisions to travel abroad are at the mercy of the DHS.

The way things stand now (before Jan. 14), any person within the United States wishing to travel must obtain a passport. This is a relatively easy process, especially if you are a naturally born citizen. After being issued a passport, it takes a court injunction to stop you from traveling (almost) wherever you please. You are afforded due process and the right to appeal any restriction placed on your travel.

The new rules reverse the old ones. Not only do they forbid travel unless specifically approved, but any decision made is not subject to appeal. We are, in a sense, guilty until proven innocent. Except there’s no opportunity to prove yourself innocent.

This travel ban is a blatant violation of our First Amendment rights. The First Amendment guarantees our right to peaceably assemble anywhere we choose, which the government will now be allowed to deny. It also goes against a number of Supreme Court decisions guaranteeing the freedom of Americans to travel abroad (Including Shapiro v. Thompson, Aptheker v. Secretary of State, and Kent v. Dulles, if you’re interested). A couple of historical examples of countries with travel bans are Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union.

I would like to say that Draconian rules such as these rarely surface in America today, but they are becoming more and more commonplace. An increasingly fascist government is slowly eroding our rights to privacy and habeas corpus, as well as our right to travel. It’s time we started paying attention.

Chris Rollins
Aerospace engineering senior

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